Monday, December 25, 2006

Helping Singles

I saw a sign in shul on Shabbos, indicating how we could all help solve the "shidduch crisis." The sign indicated that one can help all the desparate Jewish singles in the world to find their mates by... learning the laws of Shmiras HaLashon! They even started a Yahoo! group SegulahForSingles for this. As it states on the group's homepage:

The power of shmiras halashon is awesome. By learning just two lessons a day of shmiras halashon via e-mail, we can b'ezras Hashem do our part in helping singles throughout klal yisroel.

Now, I'm certainly in favor of people learning Hilchos Shmiras HaLashon. Learning Torah is always a good thing. But somehow, if we, as a community, want to do something to help solve the "shidduch crisis," there are other steps that we can take that would prove far more productive than learning Hilchos Shmiras HaLashon:

  • We could reduce some of the societal barriers that prevent young men and young women from meeting each other. As it is, in many parts of our community, young men and women have only option to meet through "official" channels -- the shadchan. By increasing the chances that young men and women have to meet each other, you are almost certain to increase the marriage rate.

  • We could go back to judging prospective grooms and brides on their strength and content of their character, instead ofwho their parents, grandparents and uncles are, how long one parent will support the young couple and instead of what political gains the marriage will gain for the family of the bride or groom.

  • We could educate young men and women about the things that are important in the search for a spouse. We could educate them that things such as what type of shoes he wears, what tablecloth her mother uses on the Shabbos table and so on are not important at all. We could teach them to focus on the things that *are* important -- Is he a good kind person? Does she share the same outlook on life that I do? Will he make me happy? Am I physically attracted to her? (Yes, it's important.) Does he make me feel special? Does she have any important character defects? Does he want the same things in life that I do? -- Those are the important things in the search for a spouse. Most of the rest is nonsense.

  • We could teach our young women that learning full-time isn't for everyone and that working for a living is not a b'dieved. We could teach young men that marriage isn't only about finding a father-in-law who will support your learning for ten years. There are certainly those who can, and should be encouraged to learn full-time after marriage - but we, as a community, have to realize that it isn't for everyone and should not include everyone.

Driving these points home to our young men and women will do far more to end the shidduch crisis than learning Hilchos Shmiras HaLashon.

The Wolf

12 comments:

AlanLaz said...

Word.

Still Wonderin' said...

Now you're just talking crazy talk! Actually, thank you for articulating so nicely a topic i have been ranting avout for some time.

the Shidduch Crisis is man made. Like when Mao starved millions of Chinese to death. The rabbinic powers that be have forced countless couples to go unmarried or to divorce with their unrealistic description of what marriage and daitng is all about. As usual so idiot rabbi thinks he knows better than god and tries to outsmart the Torah.

By the way, Yaakoiv Avinu would have been at-risk for his habit of hanging out at wells trolling for babes. At the very least, he would have been expelled from Shaim and Ayver. (and that's only if he would have gotten in due to the bad reputatoion of his bummy brother Aysav)

Pesky Settler said...

Avraham was a convert... Yitzchak, at least one Midrash says had diabetes and Yaacov had a brother who was off the Derech. In addition, his sons weren't all that great towards one another either...

Rare Find said...

Shmiras HaLashon is great, but it's insane how many things people say it helps. I've heard of it helping sick people, parnasah, a segulah for children, etc. It may be worth learning, but attributing magical powers to it is a bit ridiculous, and is getting out of hand.

Ezzie said...

Agree completely.

But as a note, in this case, shmiras halashon could help a bit, though not for "sgulah" reasons: The less people badmouth one another, perhaps more people wouldn't judge so quickly and not go out with one another. People would be forced to actually judge on character and the like! Amazing :)

Anonymous said...

If people used common sense rather than follow the stupidity of some rabbis, there would be no crisis. But that could erode the power of the stupid rabbis and cause some bochurim to actually have to work for a living.

The Answer said...

Wolf said "We could reduce some of the societal barriers that prevent young men and young women from meeting each other."

I agree with you in theory, but in practice we know what intermingling will lead to. Is there any way to have general socialization amongst the unmarried sexes in a way that will not lead to other, serious, problems? I don't know.

BrooklynWolf said...

Answer,

You are correct that in increasing the opportunities for socialization you are, by definition, increasing the chances of hanky-panky. I concede the point.

However, as with any other policy position, you have to weigh the tradeoffs. I'll give you a rather famous example:

There is a debate as to whether or not to require infants to be secured in child seats/carriers/boosters on airplanes. The idea behind the requirement is that it will save children's lives in case of a crash, much as a seat belt does.

On the surface, it seems like a wonderful proposition - who can argue with wanting to save children's lives.

The downside of the argument, however, is in the trade-off. Requiring that infants be secured would require parents to buy a seat for the infant - something that they don't have to do now. Since it will now cost extra for an infant to travel, some parents will decide to skip the travel by air and travel somewhere closer by car. As we all know, air travel is considerably safer than automobile travel. By requiring that infants be secured on airplanes, more children will be put on the road, which is even more dangerous.

So, yes, it's true that if we allow more opportunities for socialization, some people will take the opportunity to act inappropriately. But you have to weigh that against the people who are having difficulty finding spouses under the current system. Is it better to have some people potentially remain lifelong bachelors or spinsters in order to rein in the hormones of some others who might be irresponsible?

I'm not saying that you're wrong, Answer, just that one has to study the issue to determine the proper course. It's easy to say "don't give them the opportunity because some will act badly." But this isn't about taking the easy route - it's about what's the greatest good for the greatest number of people. We have to measure the potential of more couples against the potential for abuse and *then* come to a good decision.

The Wolf

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Yes, increasing opportunities for the sexes to meet does, theoretically, anyway, increase the chances that 'hanky-panky' can occur. Well, so what? First of all, a little hanky-panky never killed anybody. And what if there is hanky-panky, and the couple that liked each other enough to engage in it decided to get married? Whoa! Imagine that! As if hanky-panky doesn't happen anyway. And what is hanky-panky? Holding hands? A kiss? Gimme a break. What's more important-- making sure not a single skin cell from one touches a single skin cell of another, or-- GETTING PEOPLE MARRIED?

The Answer said...

Wolf and NJG:

Marriage is very important, yes. Marriage is a mitzva, yes.
Many people not married in the Orthodox world are unhappy, probably yes.
Unmarried singles must be miserable and unfulfilled: no
Will socialization help: perhaps
Will it lead to other problems: yes
Will the "other problems" happen in increasing numbers as the situation gets out of control: yes
Are there other solutions to the problem: most likely

Bottom line: what does Hashem want us to do here? Do we sacrifice some spirituality of many for the happiness of a few who may be helped? In my opinion: no.

Of course, where we draw the line is debatable. Witness the differences between UO groups to and see there is no agreement. But without a line, there WILL be snowballing problems I suspect.

SephardiLady said...

Now shmiras halashon is a segulah? What should I file this under?

Bottom line: what does Hashem want us to do here? Do we sacrifice some spirituality of many for the happiness of a few who may be helped? In my opinion: no.

To "The Answer": It is not just a few who would benefit from new venues for meeting. Even shadchan daters will benefit. Do you know that there are some people who only want to go through an "official" recognized shadchan. I know some people who, if you have a suggestion, will refer you to their shadchan, rather than make you a secondrary shadchan. Silly? I think so.

A friend (who has been super involved in helping singles) was just telling me about a single they know that will pass up on a suggestion if he already has seen the girl because he doesn't want to accept the offer because of "ulterior motives," i.e. he thought she was attractive. Newsflash: there is nothing wrong with being normal!

Great post Wolf. This too deserves a link.

Mike S said...

I realize it is late to be posting, but I have been away. I'd like to expand a little on Ezzie's point: attention to the halacha of shmiras ha-lashon and related matters would be very helpful--not in the sense the flyer's author meant of manipulating HaKadosh Baruch Hu into solving the problem by a miracle, but because so many of the behaviors that cause the problem are violations of halacha.

In the first place it is specifically forbidden to be contemptuous of righteous converts, Ba'ale t'shuvah, and people who work for a living. In the second, the permission to relay and to believe derogatory information about another person when it is relevant to a decision is much more limited than seems to be the usual practice in regard to shiduchim--in particular, among other things, the person doing the telling must have first hand knowledge of the matter and it must be directly relevant to the decision at hand. In particular, there is no permission to go searching for, or to relay, gossip regarding a possible shidduch, and such irrelevant narishkeit like tablecloth colors, the behavior of the person's second cousins, etc. is completely out of bounds.